Deftly involving Lord Ram into the development debate, while steering clear of mentioning Ram Mandir, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Friday equated Uttar Pradesh with Ram Rajya.

“The kind of energy, masses and culture required for Ram Rajya is available in UP. Had the people of this land not dreamt of a Ram Rajya, if people were not skilled, how would a Ram Rajya been possible here?” he asked.

Stressing that the country’s most populous State should not be viewed merely as a means to building governments as it sent the maximum (80) MPs to the Lok Sabh, he said: “UP should not be just a playground for politics… it can emerge as the engine of development.”

Addressing the Vijay Shankhnaad rally in Varanasi, the Gujarat Chief Minister, though in a veiled manner, tried to appeal to the cultural sense of Hindus by referring to the corruption amd neglect in the cleaning of the River Ganga, which is held sacred by the community. With this he also made his entry into the eastern region of the State.

“Innumerable schemes were made, fund allocated and commissions formed but seems all that has been washed away in the river,” he lamented, before praising his government’s initiative to clean the Sabarmati.

“Ten years ago it (Sabarmati) was nothing but a dirty drain but today pure water flows through it. If Sabarmati can be cleaned why not the Ganga?

Asserting that in order to clean the Ganga, it was first required to clean Lucknow and Delhi, he posed: "Those who cannot handle the Ganga, how can they handle the country?”

This was Mr. Modi’s first rally after his party’s win in the four state elections. However, he shied away from the subject, instead focusing on local issues. Mr. Modi made an indirect attempt to reach out to Muslims, by lamenting over the problems of the handloom industry in the region, in particular the decline of the famous Banarasi sari. While the Banarasi Sari draws its name from Varanasi, the handloom trade extends to neighbouring districts of Azamgarh and Mau, which has substantial population of Muslims engaged in the trade. Mr. Modi claimed that a few days prior to his rally a Muslim man wrote to him narrating the pitiable state of the weaving industry.

Claiming that his party would not indulge in vade (promises) but in irade (ambition), he said the success of the handloom industry in Surat could be replicated in UP.

“In the last 10 years we started a campaign with the help of banks to technologically upgrade the power loom sector in Gujarat. If we can upgrade the industry in Varanasi, it can give employment to lakhs of youth,” he said.

“The Centre can import yarn from China but are not worried about what happens to the Banarasi industry,” he added.

Speaking at a rural location in Rajatalab Khajuri, around 20 km from Varanasi, Mr. Modi also tried to woo farmers, reminding them of their potential and mentioning the clarion “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan,” which was given by former PM late Lal Bahadur Shastri.

“UP can feed the whole of Europe but the farmer is unable to fill his own stomach…How does the farmer feel to know that the grains are rotting on railway platforms? It is not merely an economic loss. It also hurts the sentiment of the farmer."

Mr. Modi also played the “poverty” card, blaming the Nehru-Gandhi family for the poverty in the country while relating his own background and beginnings as a tea-seller. “I have spent my childhood in poverty; I do not need to go to houses of the poor to see what poverty is,” he said.

The Kashi Pranth of east UP consists of 14 Lok Sabha seats. Earlier Mr. Modi visited the Sankatmochan and Kashi Vishwanath Temples in the city, amid heavy security cover. His rally was attended by senior BJP leaders including president Rajnath Singh and sitting Varanasi MP Murli Manohar Joshi.